The Steadfast Love of the Lord

By: Dr. Gregory S. Neal

Sometimes the conditions of this life can beat us down to such an extent that we cannot see anything but our problems. Sometimes the darkness and despair grows so deep that we almost loose sight of our hope. Sometimes we become so focused upon our fears and anxieties that we lose touch with the One who suffered and died for us. We think we are alone. We feel as though we have been deserted. We look, and can find no reminder of God’s love and presence in our lives. We become lost in what the spiritual writers sometimes call “the dark night of the soul.” My friends, all Christians seem to slip into some form of this condition at sometime in their lives. All Christians, no matter how spiritual or how faithful, can become mired in the bog of spiritual depression. There is nothing unusual about such feelings; they are a part of what it means to struggle with the powers and forces of darkness in this present evil age.

However, even in the deep despair of our periodic “dark nights of the soul,” the promise of God is still sure and strong and able to deliver us. The Psalmist knew it well:

O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his steadfast love endures forever!
Out of my distress I called on the LORD;
the LORD answered me and set
me in a broad place.
With the LORD on my side I do not fear.
What can mortals do to me?
—Psalm 118:1,5-6

These words, and many others like them found throughout the Psalter, have comforted me during those times in my life when I have felt as though I was alone, forgotten by God, left to shrivel away in the wilderness. These words are simple, yet they proclaim the truth with unmistakable clarity: The steadfast love of the Lord endures forever!

According to Webster’s Dictionary, the word steadfast means: “firmly fixed in place, immovable, not subject to change.” The word endure means: “to continue, to last, to remain firm under suffering or misfortune without yielding.” The word forever means: “for a limitless time, at all times, continually, eternally.” Hence, the meaning of each of these key words speaks to us of the powerful, firm, trustworthy, tenacious, never ending love of God. When our lives are all jumbled up, when very little seems firm or established, when very little seems to last or remain, when very little seems to be permanent or eternal, it is most fitting that the Holy Scriptures remind us of God’s never failing, always remaining, never ending love. We may not be able to feel the love of God in our lives at a particular moment, we may not be able to see the hand of God at work in our lives, we may not even be able to remember a time when God’s love was felt and seen, but we can trust in the promise found in these words of the Psalter, a promise which is true, trustworthy, and tenacious.

Another Psalm which is especially precious to me and speaks words of assurance each and every evening as I prepare for sleep, is Psalm 31:

In you, O LORD, have I taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame:
deliver me in your righteousness.
Incline your ear to me;
make haste to deliver me.
Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe,
for your are my crag and my stronghold;
for the sake of your Name, lead me
and guide me.
Take me out of the net
that they have secretly set for me,
for you are my tower of strength.
Into your hands I commend my spirit,
for you have redeemed me,
O LORD, O God of truth.

Even when not in distress, even when high on the mountain tops of spiritual joy, these words fill me with a continual reminder of God’s presence in my life. The Psalmist was right: the Lord truly is “my strong rock” and “my stronghold;” and, in the presence of the Lord we have nothing to fear. We may face death, pain, sickness, sorrow, fear, anxiety, despair, or depression, but the promise is still firm and sure and everlasting: we have nothing to fear with the Lord as our “castle to keep us safe.”

© 1995, Dr. Gregory S. Neal
All Rights Reserved

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The Reverend Dr. Gregory S. Neal is the Senior Pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Commerce, Texas, and an ordained Elder in the North Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church. A graduate of Southern Methodist University, Duke University, and Trinity College, Dr. Neal is a scholar of Systematic Theology, New Testament origins, and Biblical Languages. His areas of specialization include the Theology of the Sacraments, in which he did his doctoral dissertation, and the formation and early transmission of the New Testament. Trained as a Christian educator, he has taught classes in these and related fields while also serving for more than 25 years as the pastor of United Methodist churches in North Texas.

As a popular teacher, preacher, and retreat leader, Dr. Neal is known for his ability to translate complex theological concepts into common, everyday terms. HIs preaching and teaching ministry is in demand around the world, and much of his work can be found on this website. He is the author of several books, including
Grace Upon Grace: Sacramental Theology and the Christian Life, which is in its second edition, and Seeking the Shepherd's Arms: Reflections from the Pastoral Side of Life, a work of devotional literature. Both of these books are currently available from